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text 2018-08-31 15:40
August wrap up
Blackbeard: The Birth of America - Samuel S. Marquis
Legion Excerpt - Brandon Sanderson
Behind the Door - Mary SanGiovanni
Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles, Book One) - Tamora Pierce
Rattus New Yorkus - Hunter Shea
Ireland the Best - Sally McKenna,John McKenna
Magic Medicine: A Trip Through the Intoxicating History and Modern-Day Use of Psychedelic Plants and Substances - Cody Johnson
Hero at the Fall - Alwyn Hamilton
Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind
Sound—The Fabric of Soul, Consciousness, Reality, and the Cosmos - Ramiro Mendes,João Mendes

Wow, 10 books in a month is good for me!


I'm reading more in the run up to Bingo. Some of these could even fit Bingo squares, but I have new choices.


Stand out books Are Legion and Hero at the Fall, both good Fantasy. Behind the Door and Blackbeard were also worthy.


3 non-fiction, of those Ireland the Best was excellent reference material and the others were each interesting in their own ways.


Funny enough, the two well known Fantasy writers were the disappointments.


I was getting close to finishing all current reads, then a couple more got approved at Netgalley. At least I'm going to have plenty of good stuff to read for the next couple of months!

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review 2018-08-30 12:44
Blackbeard - The Birth of America
Blackbeard: The Birth of America - Samuel S. Marquis

by Samuel S. Marquis


The introduction to this got me excited because a lot of historical information was consulted by the author that shows Blackbeard very differently than pop culture has painted him and among the sources was David Cordingly, who wrote one of the best non-fiction books about pirates I've ever read.


Having established that the author did his research, this is presented as Historical Fiction so I was prepared to settle back and enjoy a good pirate story, but secure in the knowledge that it was based on facts as far as they are known. The one problem was that a lot of those facts were shoehorned in and made the flow of the story a little awkward.


Still, Blackbeard comes over as a mostly sympathetic character. The early chapters read more like a history book than historical fiction, but I did get caught up in the story a few chapters in. The events and chance meetings that led Edward Thache to turn from honest naval service to piracy are put into context in a way that demonstrates that he had little choice, as so many characters from history have found themselves on the wrong side of the law through circumstances of their times.


I enjoyed getting a look inside the sequence of events that actually happened and how Thache morphed into the pirate Blackbeard and obtained the Queen Anne's Revenge. With historical fiction about real people, you already know how it ends. It's reading about the sequence of events that lead up to what history tells us that makes it interesting and I came out of this feeling real sympathy for Blackbeard and his reasons for turning pirate, not least of all because he preferred taking his prizes without hurting anyone when he could.

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review 2018-03-22 18:31
Blackbeard: The Birth of America Reviewed By Dr. Wesley Britton
Blackbeard: The Birth of America - Samuel S. Marquis

Blackbeard: The Birth of America

Samuel Marquis

Print Length: 544 pages

Publisher: Mount Sopris Publishing (February 6, 2018)

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC





Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton


Over the years, I’ve read a number of Samuel Marquis’s historical thrillers. I’ve become a fan who’s happy with pretty much every volume, many of which are set during World War II. Among the many surprises of his new Blackbeard is the time period the story is set in. I’ve never associated Marquis with the early decades of the 18th century or the seas of the Caribbean and the pirates that sailed on them circa 1716-1718.


Another major surprise is Marquis’s portrayal of Blackbeard, the privateer turned pirate. I was surprised to see the pirate always referred to as Edward Thatch and not Edward Teach, the surname I always associated with Blackbeard. Well, Google for both names and both names will come up in multiple entries. Whatever handle Marquis gives his character, few readers are likely to anticipate seeing Blackbeard painted in the most heroic portrait possible, at least for the first two/thirds of the book. 


Marquis’s Blackbeard tries to avoid violence by only attacking ships that offer little resistance to minimize the carnage his crew might endure.   He’s a giant figure, a charismatic leader able to use eloquence to sway his extremely democratic sea-farers to his point of view. The pirates operate within the rules of the “articles” that give every man an equal vote in important decisions and an equal share in any booty. There is no racism.  We see this most evident in the character of Cesar, a former black slave now devoted to Blackbeard.


The pirates’ motives are in part economic, part political, and part a lust for the free life.  At first, pirate captains have charters given to them by royal governors based in the New World to attack Spanish and French ships.  But many dislike British King George from the House of Hanover and would prefer the crowning of James III from the House of Stuart.   For such reasons, Blackbeard’s small but powerful flotilla start attacking British ships in part to rebel against those who are rich and abusive to the common man.   The pirates start describing themselves as “Robin Hoods,” distributing wealth much more fairly than royal charters.


Another major character is Steede Bonnet, a Barbados plantation owner who throws it all away to become a pirate for the freedom of a life at sea despite his less than adequate knowledge of sea-going ways. Woven throughout the scenes set in the Caribbean and up the Atlantic coast, we also spend time on land with Alexander Spotswood, the despotic, vindictive and tyrannical lieutenant governor of Virginia. For Spotswood, capturing Blackbeard is a political move calculated to curry favor in England.  Very unpopular with his colony’s citizens, he suppresses any desires brought to him from the Virginia House of Burgesses that might erode his powers. He despises the new term of “Americans” and, in many ways, embodies the complaints the founders of the United States would fight against in just over fifty years.


So the “Golden Age of Piracy” is portrayed as the precursor for the American Revolution with Blackbeard and his cohorts the real patriots, at least in their own opinion.    In Marquis’s realm, these salty dogs never lacked for self-righteous self-justification. I suspect it’s my own preconceived notions, but I frequently found it difficult to accept the verisimilitude of these noble scalawags. I am perhaps a modern victim of the propaganda that cast Blackbeard as a vicious criminal in Boston newspapers of the time. I was also put off a bit by Marquis frequently repeating his points over and over which seemed like rather overdoing it. Padding?


The book never really builds up a head of steam, at least until the final third where Blackbeard realizes his flotilla has grown too large, that the British admiralty is about to end the age of freebooting piracy, and he makes some turning-point choices very different from what we’ve come to expect from him. Lots of surprises in this fast-moving section of the book.

 Throughout, Marquis’s gifts for description and character development are on full display to take his readers to times and places that, in this case, are captured in ways few of us would expect.    His closing end notes make it clear he sketched out most of this novel drawing from a wide spectrum of resources, many of them of rather recent vintage.


So, from page one to his appendices, unless you too are a Blackbeard scholar, Blackbeard: The Birth of America will be a constantly eye-opening series of surprises. You’ll feel certain you’re learning something as the story progresses. Pirates as the original American revolutionaries? Marquis builds a vivid and convincing case that is so.  



This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on March 20, 2018:


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review 2016-10-25 02:03
There's a lot of heart to this, but not much else.
Blackbeard's Daughter - Diana Strenka

Edward Teach had a rough childhood dominated by a harsh, abusive, taskmaster of a father. He eventually grows to manhood, marries and takes over the family estate -- as soon as he can, he takes his wife and daughter to the New World and the freshly established colonies.


The focus of this story turns to his daughter, Margaret -- and she has a rough crossing of the Atlantic, and doesn't take to the New World too well. It's a dramatic time for British settlers -- battles with the natives and others disrupt the lives of the Teaches in dramatic fashion, death, injury, and loss of home and income. Margaret's world is turned upside down several times, the last time when her father starts going to sea for months at a time, only turning up unexpectedly.


She eventually learns that he's the pirate Blackbeard (not really a spoiler folks, look at the title) and goes to sea with him for a while. Almost none of this part of the novel works -- and when it ends, it's almost a relief.


There's a plotline about Margaret and her efforts to help free slaves that's sentimentally nice, but doesn't seem to ring true and doesn't really go anywhere.


I have no idea how close any of this novel comes to matching historical data, it has a ring of authenticity augmented by imagination, but I can't be sure.


Everything almost worked -- almost -- but I can't think of anything that actually did. There's an earnestness to the text that will draw you in and make you root for the author, but that's really the best I can say.


Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. Sorry.

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text 2016-08-13 23:00
Black Sails and Piracy

So I got to watching Starz's Black Sails recently and although I was hesitant at first, expecting it to be kind of corny, it soon grew on me and I've been binge watching it. The show has grown through the second season and I particularly like Toby Stephens as Captain Flint. (RLS' Treasure Island Captain Flint). I like how they have blended fictional characters in with the romanticized real life ones such as Blackbeard & Charles Vane.


Anyway all of this led me to start thinking about the history of the Caribbean and in particular piracy. From my initial wikipedia searches I found that information seems sparse, which is understandable, given that we're talking about 400 year old history, but I knew there would be someone out there that has written a solid, engaging history. 


And so I'm now at the point where I've just purchased 3 books from Amazon based on recommendations from varying places. David Cordingly's name kept popping up with his history Under the black Flag and his more recent Spanish Gold. Finally I stumbled upon Carrie Gibson's Empire's Crossroads. 


To be honest I'm sat here now and I'm thinking to myself, how have I left it so long to delve into piracy. Perhaps it's because it's typically romanticized for children, who can pretend to be adventurous, marauding captains with their plastic sword, pirate hat play set from the local toy shop.


Maybe because of this glamorizing of piracy in modern day society and the lack of reliable evidence available it's hard differentiate between what is legend or fantasy and what was real. Hopefully my three purchases will help enlighten me. 

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